“Art is the highest form of hope,” said renowned German artist Gerhard Richter, and the sentiment was recently echoed by Maine artist Lyn Asselta as she explained her involvement in the upcoming Art for Ukraine sale.
Art for Ukraine is the brainchild of South Bristol’s Sally Loughridge who brought the fundraising idea to a group of six artists who meet regularly to create and critique art.
“I came in and I said … Why don’t we do an art sale to help the people of Ukraine? And everybody jumped on board. Within 24 hours I had made up Facebook posts … and then it was off and flying,” she said.
That was only six weeks ago. In a very short span of time, Loughridge along with Asselta, and local artists Jane Herbert, Betty Heselton, Penny Moody, and Marnie Sinclair made a plan, found a venue, vetted charities, spread the word, and received more than 70 donated works for the sale.
“What we need now is customers,” Loughridge said.
The sale will consist of 14-by-18 inch or smaller framed ready-to-hang artworks and tabletop sculptures, one per artist, the size necessarily small to include a wider spectrum of work. The six hosting artists settled on Doctors without Borders and Save the Children as the organizations that will benefit from 100% of the money brought in by the sale.
Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust will host the event. “Providing a space for the show felt like a small way we could contribute to their important effort,” said Executive Director Steven Hufnagel, in a news release announcing the sale.
“It’s a beautiful room with a birch ceiling, a birch floor, white walls, lots of windows,” Loughridge said, calling the space “lovely and light.”
Live instrumental music will further enhance the browsing atmosphere.
Art for Ukraine is not a thematic show, although much of the work will be representational, according to Loughridge. Many of the contributing artists are known for capturing the landscapes and seascapes of Maine in oils, acrylics, watercolors, and pastels.
Loughridge said she chose to donate a painting “that I thought might resonate with Maine folks – a calm, peaceful, kind of gentle scene.”
Herbert chose a piece that depicts Popham Beach in Phippsburg, a place well-loved by both locals and tourists. She felt it had a wide appeal that would make it likely to sell.
Other contributors work in different media. Sinclair, a noted environmental artist, is donating a puffin formed from orange wire. And Heselton’s statue of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, is sculpted in high-fired clay.
Herbert, a plein air and landscape artist from Damariscotta, called Loughridge not only the spark for the idea, but also the one who had the organizational skills to pull it together.
She is not surprised by the donations that flooded in when they put out the call.
“Any artist who has been working all her life has a lot (of art). We all have plenty,” she said. “We’re glad to share it … We do what we do to help humanity in any way we can.”
To Asselta the way art is tied to hope explains why artists are so often involved in fundraising for humanitarian causes. “(Art) is the only thing that continues,” she said.
Sinclair agreed, noting that art has survived the demise of many civilizations. “It’s eternal.”
For Sinclair, whose work occasionally veers toward the political, art has a role to play in combating what she calls “a crisis of hope” that has become increasingly evident as the war in Ukraine continues week after week.
“They didn’t invite this,” Loughridge said. “They didn’t invade Russia. It happened to them.”
Loughridge doesn’t have any specific family ties to Ukraine.
“It’s more a human tie,” she said. “They’re people like us who are hurting and being attacked. I feel for all of them, particularly for the families, the children and mothers who had to run … So many of them don’t know when they’ll see their loved ones again.”
Loughridge hopes that Art for Ukraine will show that local efforts can make a difference. “Maybe it’ll spur some other projects,” she said.
“I just think this sort of wakes people up to how fragile our democracy is, how fragile everything is,” Heselton said, regarding the situation in Eastern Europe and its wider repercussions.
Sandra Dickson, who grew up painting with her grandmother on Monhegan Island, did not initially set out to make the oil-on-canvas piece she donated to the sale. She was painting from a plaster bust of a man who looked a bit like Mark Twain in a studio in Thomaston. A cluster of fake sunflowers stood next to the bust so she included them.
As the composition came together, Dickson added the Ukrainian flag and began to rework the anonymous depiction of the bust with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s features.
The day after she finished the painting she titled “The Face of Courage,” she saw the announcement for the Art for Ukraine fundraiser. Proceeds from the sale of the painting will now help Zelenskyy’s people survive.
A small bronze sculpture of an embracing mother and child by the late sculptor Cabot Lyford is another work donated to the sale.
“Throughout his life-long career … Lyford, a World War II veteran, maintained a commitment to social activism, often through his artistic imagery in support of humanitarian causes,” according to daughter Julia Lane, a member of local musical duo Castlebay. “Doctors Without Borders was a frequent beneficiary, and he would be glad to be included in this effort to provide relief for Ukraine.”
Lane said that as a soldier in the Philippines, Lyford painted domestic scenes, water buffalo, herons. He created expressions of beauty in the midst of despair. Lane said it was his way of processing the horror that he saw.
Loughridge said when she got the call from Lane about the donation of the sculpture “that to me so fit the Ukrainian situation, the anguish… I love the idea that she wanted to donate that.”
Lane called the sculpture, titled “Camden Hills Mother and Child,” a representation “of how we are sustained by the earth and its nurturing qualities.”
Cabot Lyford’s works can be found in a number of museums, galleries, and permanent collections in New England and the United States, including the Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.
“I know that art is a therapeutic and healing pursuit. I’ve used it that way in my own life,” Loughridge said. “I think all of us in this group have used it during the pandemic as a way to just kind of hold steady, best we can. It feels like a good medium through which to (help) Ukrainians.
“If the artists show up, the work is there, people are enthusiastic, and we sell a number of (paintings), that will be success for me,” Loughridge said. “I don’t have a dollar amount in mind. The more the better. I want things to sell and I want the money to go to Ukraine. It’s pretty simple.”
Art for Ukraine is a sale of original artwork by Maine artists to benefit the Ukrainian people. The sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, at the Denny Conservation and Education Center at Round Top Farm, home of Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust. The address is 3 Round Top Lane in Damariscotta.
Purchases can be made by cash or check.
All proceeds of the sale will go directly to Doctors without Borders or Save the Children to aid in their humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.